You’re fabulous. You’re a gift to conductors. I mean, we do everything any other musician does to prepare for a performance–learn the music, analyse it, dig an interpretation out of it, practice it, and perform it. But when it comes to those last two steps, you are the important people.
A lot of you are also soloists and perform in chamber ensembles, where you can work on the preparation yourself and lead naturally and easily into the performance phase. Discover something new? Want to make changes? Easy: just do it.
But if the piece calls for a larger ensemble, who takes on the role of analyst and interpreter? The conductor, of course. That’s why we’re there: so the performance can be informed by the big picture. But it don’t make no never mind without the ensemble. If I discover something new, want to make changes, I have to depend on a group of people listening and responding and going with the flow.
So, I love you guys. You come and sit there–ready, willing, and eager to participate in this community activity to make music that can’t be done by individuals alone. You buy into my ideas and come up with better ones. You try. You work to make the music happen.
You members of the ensemble with whom I performed most recently are particularly heroic. I was the student conductor (I’ve said before that student conductor is an oxymoron: show me the follower trying to lead or the leader trying to follow and I’ll show you the potential for a mess) and most of you barely knew me; everyone was accustomed to a very different way of rehearsing. It could easily have been pretty unpleasant.
But it wasn’t. You showed up, rehearsal after rehearsal, and valiantly tried to figure out what the hell I was talking about. You loved the music like I did–or at least sounded like you did!–and gave it everything you had to give.
I am so grateful to singers and instrumentalists in the ensembles I conduct. Most of you would say, “of course we show up, of course we try. What else are we going to do? Isn’t that why we’re there?” And that, the openness of your hearts, is the only thing that makes my work possible. It’s the only reason my work matters.
There’s a lot of music I love, but you are the reason I bother to show up and make it.
There’s a joke: “none of us is as dumb as all of us.” But, of course, the principle of emergence tells us that groups are consistently more amazing than any individual. As does my experience.